The free medical clinic in Briceville closes today after 17 years of serving patients.
Dr. Tom Kim came to Briceville Elementary in 2001 for a free health fair and saw a need in the community.
“I decided to come down and see if there are people here who I could help,” Kim said.
He asked about a building across the street, near the post office, and found that it was available. It wasn’t long before he was up and running with a team of volunteer nurses and staff.
He used to drive down to Briceville every Wednesday, but for the past couple of years has only come once a month.
“I’m 73 and getting tired,” he said.
He will be 74 on Christmas Day and said that the drive to and from Briceville was just getting to be too much. He will continue to see patients at his office in Knoxville, however.
“It’s a distance for him to have to go every month,” said his office manager Peggy Coley.
He will no longer see patients in Scott or Morgan County, either.
“The Clinton Baptist Association helped support the clinic,” said Coley. “Steve and Mary Burton have been longtime volunteers. They’ve had some great, faithful volunteers that have kept it open. Now it’s time to close it up.”
When asked how many patients he saw on a monthly basis, he replied, “I see one patient a day. I just focus on one.”
The number of patients coming through the doors monthly varied, but the number served throughout the years is in the hundreds.
He and his Knoxville staff celebrated 25 years in June. He began operating the free clinics when he saw what he believed to be a broken health care system. At that time, Tennessee was planning TennCare. He set aside a few evenings a week from his full-time practice before retiring in 2005 and working the free clinic full-time. Not only that, but he founded the Free Medical Clinics of America. At that time, 25 other doctors were on board.
Now, that number is six.
“I really thank the volunteers from the depth of my heart,” Kim said. “I’m glad I had the chance to do the health fair at the elementary school all those years ago. We helped a lot of people. Going over there was just a pleasure.”
He said he would miss the beautiful drive in the spring and fall.
“When you drive in Rocky Top, to the Briceville Road, that road is so pretty,” he said. “Every spring I would pick up box turtles from the road and put them in a safe place.”
Patients who want to see Kim at his Knoxville Free Medical Clinic can schedule an appointment by calling 865-577-3733.
“I’m still kicking,” he said. “As long as I can serve some patients, I will.”